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Night shifts, changing work schedule tied to poor mental health: Study

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People who work night shifts or varied schedules that disrupt their sleep may be more likely to develop depression than individuals with 9-to-5 jobs, a research review suggests.


Researchers examined data from seven previously published studies of work schedules and mental health involving a total of 28,438 participants. Overall, shift workers were 28 per cent more likely to experience mental health problems than people with consistent weekday work schedules.


“We know that shift-work alters the circadian rhythm, that is our normal sleep-wake cycle which matches day-night cycle,” said Luciana Torquati, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Exeter in the UK.


“This disruption can make people moody and irritable, and lead to social isolation as shift-workers time-off matches family and friend’s work and life commitments,” Torquati said by email.


In particular, the study found, shift workers were 33 per cent more likely to have depression than people who didn’t work nights or irregular schedules.


Shift workers also had a higher chance of developing anxiety, but in this case the difference was too small to rule out the possibility that it was due to chance.


Women appeared particularly vulnerable to the negative mental health effects of shift work, researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health.


Compared to women who worked consistent weekday schedules, women who worked nights or split shifts were 78 per cent more likely to experience adverse mental health outcomes.


Men, however, didn’t appear to have an increased risk of mental health issues when they worked nights or irregular schedules.


The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how work schedules might directly impact mental health.


It’s possible that people with poor mental health wound up in jobs with irregular schedules, rather than developing mood disorders after they started working nights or inconsistent shifts.


Even so, the results suggest that workers and employees should be aware of the potential for work schedules to impact mental health, Torquati said.


“Your brain is programmed to sleep during night hours (absence of light) to recover from all the information it has processed during the day,” Torquati said. “Conversely, day light tells your brain it’s time to be awake and process information.”


“With shift-work you turn this cycle upside down: process information & being awake at night, sleep during the day, and this means that body functions that follow such cycle are disrupted,” Torquati added. “This disruption of functions can result in irritability, nervousness, depressed mood, and ultimately mental disorders.”


It’s possible that shift work might be just one aspect of poor mental health, and people who suffer from symptoms of depression or other mood disorders should seek treatment, Torquati advised.


Finding time to exercise, get outside during daylight hours, and spend time with family and friends may also help improve mood and limit social isolation that can exacerbate depression, Torquati said.


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4 of 5 Indian children do not survive cancer. What led to this sorry state?

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How long does a cancer diagnosis take?


Six months, according to Bipin Jana, 45, whose eight-year-old son Parmeshwar has stage-4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That is how long it took the family, travelling 2,000 km across West Bengal, New Delhi and finally, Mumbai, to get an effective diagnosis and start treatment.


Parmeshwar is currently undergoing chemotherapy at the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), Mumbai, India’s foremost

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Health

Vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids may help children with autism

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Children with autism who take supplements of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids may have fewer symptoms than kids who don’t, a research review suggests.


Researchers examined data from 27 trials involving a total of 1,028 children with autism spectrum disorder. Kids were randomly selected to take various dietary supplements, including vitamins or omega-3s, or to take a dummy pill instead.


Omega-3s and vitamin supplements were more effective than the placebo pill at improving several symptoms, functions, and clinical domains, researchers report in Pediatrics. Gains varied in the trials but included improved language and social skills, reduced repetitive behaviours, improved attention, less irritability and behaviour difficulties, and better sleep and communication.


“These results suggest that some dietary interventions could play a role in the clinical management of some areas of dysfunction specific to ASD,” said David Fraguas, lead author of the study and a researcher at Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Maranon and Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain.


Even though the analysis was based on controlled experiments — the gold standard for testing the effectiveness of medical interventions — the individual studies were too varied in what supplements they tested and how they measured results to draw any broad conclusions about what type or amount of supplements might be ideal for children with autism, researchers note in Pediatrics.


“The underlying mechanisms involved in the potential efficacy of dietary interventions in autism spectrum disorder are unknown, Fraguas said by email. “Our study does not assess this important question and current literature is inconclusive.”


reuters


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New transplant research aims to salvage infected donated organs

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Retired subway and bus driver Stanley De Freitas had just celebrated his 70th birthday when he started coughing, tiring easily and feeling short of breath. He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a severe scarring of the lungs, and put on the wait list for a transplant.


“Life became unbearable. From the time I got up in the morning until when I went to bed at night, I struggled through every breath of air,” De Freitas, now 74, told Reuters by phone from his home in Toronto.


After two years, De Freitas was offered a lung, with one significant downside: The donor had hepatitis C.


In October 2017, he became the first patient enrolled in a just published study conducted at Toronto General Hospital testing a technique that aimed to flush out and inactivate the hepatitis C virus from donor lungs before a transplant.


The research comes amid a spike in available organs linked to the opioid overdose crisis, meaning many are contaminated by hepatitis C as the virus is commonly spread by sharing needles. Since it can easily infect an organ recipient, those organs are usually discarded despite the urgent need.


Data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which matches donors with recipients, shows that 97 percent of people waiting for a lung in the United States last year were unwilling to accept an organ from a donor who tested positive for hepatitis C.


While hepatitis C causes serious liver disease, the virus can be present in the blood in other organs.


Researchers are testing different approaches to salvage infected organs.


A study published in April showed that giving patients antiviral therapy just hours after transplant surgery can successfully attack the virus before it gains a foothold in the recipient.


Eliminating the virus prior to transplant would simplify the procedure for patients, said UNOS Chief Medical Officer David Klassen. It could also significantly cut down on wasted donor organs.


The technique used in Toronto, known as ex vivo lung perfusion, keeps organs “alive” outside the body by pumping them with a bloodless oxygenated liquid. They used ultraviolet C light to irradiate the solution, aiming to deactivate the hepatitis C virus and make it non-infectious.


Perfusion allows doctors to evaluate and potentially rehabilitate organs for transplant, and buys them more time than storage in ice boxes, which can cause tissue damage.


Toronto researchers used a solution from Sweden’s Xvivo Perfusion AB with the hospital’s own ex vivo lung perfusion system, a bubble-like machine made from off-the-shelf components and an intensive care ventilator.


The study of 22 patients, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine on Wednesday, had mixed results. Adding light therapy significantly decreased the amount of virus, but all but two of the patients contracted hepatitis C, which is now curable.


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